VERNON - Mounties have busted a Vernon drug ring with ties to the Lower Mainland.
RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk said two men, Andres Naranjo, 21, and Daniel Penton, 21, both of the Lower Mainland but residing in Vernon, were arrested Dec. 19. Naranjo is facing charges of trafficking cocaine and possession of cocaine and heroin for the purpose of trafficking, while Penton faces a number of firearms related offenses.
The sting was carried out alongside the Combined Special Enforcement Unit out of the Lower Mainland. Sgt. Lindsey Houghton of the special enforcement unit said its investigators were already interested in Penton, who they suspected was running drug lines for the Unknown Soldiers gang in the Vernon area.
“The arrest of Daniel Penton will significantly diminish the level of violence and drug trafficking that occurs in the Vernon area,” Houghton said. “Getting Penton, a dangerous offender who has a previous gun-related conviction, off the streets highlights the level of cooperation and coordination between the (special enforcement unit) and Vernon RCMP to obtain successful results in two investigations.”
Vernon RCMP first caught on to the Lower Mainland connection during a previous under cover drug investigation. At that time, in late November 2014, police conducted a four-day operation targeting Vernon drug traffickers. A total of 25 street level drug purchases of cocaine and methamphetamine were observed, resulting in 21 people charged with drug trafficking.
“During the undercover operation investigators identified a drug trafficking group with ties to the Lower Mainland,” Molendyk said. “Drug purchases were made from at least five persons believed to be connected to this group.”
As the investigation progressed, the South East District Emergency Response Team was brought in to execute search warrants at two units of a four-plex in the 3500 block of 24 Avenue in Vernon.
The search resulted in the seizure of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, prescription pills, cash, drug trafficking paraphernalia, a zap cane and other weapons.
The special enforcement unit also executed a search warrant in Penton’s hotel room, as well as two of his storage lockers in Port Coquitlam. The hotel search turned up a loaded .25 calibre handgun, multiple edged weapons, a collapsible baton, and $2,600 cash.
Penton is facing one count of possession of a firearm knowing he was not holder of a licence; one count of possession of a loaded prohibited firearm without licence; and two counts of possession of firearm or ammunition while prohibited. Penton was previously convicted of possession of a loaded gun with a silencer.
Vernon Sgt. David Evans said the investigation was a high priority for the detachment’s targeted policing unit. He noted operations like this "significantly disrupt drug trafficking groups and in many instances result in lengthy jail terms for repeat offenders."
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—This story was updated at 3:27 p.m. Jan. 7 to include additional information from the Combined Special Enforcement Unit.